What is marketing automation software?

Marketing automation software streamlines the marketing processes used to support digital marketing campaigns. This can include campaign management, audience segmentation, behavioral analysis, website monitoring, and lead scoring.

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What is marketing automation used for?

Marketing automation saves time. It automates repetitive tasks, reduces human error, and helps you achieve better results. Instead of doing things manually, you can focus on more strategic tasks, such as campaign planning and design, goal development, research, brand consistency, KPI measurement, and more.

Email marketing automation is what many people think of when they hear the term "marketing automation." However, it does more than automate email campaigns. For example, marketing automation software can streamline the following tasks:

  • Lead generation, nurturing, and scoring
  • Audience segmentation and targeting
  • Upsell and cross-sell activities
  • Customer loyalty and retention programs
  • Analytics and reporting to optimize marketing and content strategies (that is, tweaking the subject headings or send times)
  • A/B testing to see which headlines, offers, copy, or images work best

Marketing automation software also works to enhance your customer data and build better customer profiles. You can use this data to improve the customer experience (CX) by creating tailored, personalized experiences across channels.

Types of marketing automation software

Read ten different articles, and you’ll find ten different definitions of marketing automation software. Some definitions lump systems for inventory management, pricing, distribution, revenue management, and competitive intelligence into the category of "marketing automation tools." With that said, here is a list of different types of software that can be classified as marketing automation.

  • Customer relationship management (CRM), which automates sales processes and manages customer, order, and product data.
  • Sales force automation, which handles sales processes, manages data, and offers analytics.
  • Email marketing, which facilitates the entire email marketing process. This includes the setting up of lead generation forms, as well as a variety of reports to track success.
  • Social media, which automates many aspects of social media marketing, including content publishing, scheduling, monitoring, and analytics.
  • Marketing automation workflows, which remove the human element from marketing processes.
  • Lead management, which automates the generation, scoring, and use of sales or marketing leads.
  • Analytics, which show the data in a visual format and identifies patterns in market and customer data.
  • Pricing, which assists with the setting of competitive pricing structures, usually within an ecommerce environment. Examples include A/B testing or demand estimation.
  • Digital advertising and promotion, which refines and automates much of the ad creation process and bidding strategies across digital channels.
  • Customer loyalty, which automates key components in the promotion and administration of loyalty programs.

There are many different types of solutions available. Some vendors offer point solutions that need to be integrated into other solutions. Some offer all-in-one solutions that provide several (if not all) of the tools listed above.

How does marketing automation software work?

Marketing automation software takes care of most of the tasks and workflows involved in digital marketing campaigns.The software works using six common processes (or steps):

  1. Collect data about potential customers through website visits, app usage, email clicks, and other digital marketing interactions.
  2. Based on the data collected, relevant and useful content is created.
  3. Identify, target, and segment prospective customers.
  4. Design campaigns using prospect segments to deliver personalized experiences across various digital marketing channels, including email, social, mobile, and chat.
  5. Customer actions and predetermined schedules trigger cross-channel workflows to do two things—lead customers down the sales funnel and/or nurture them until they become marketing qualified leads.
  6. Analyze and track results. Find out what's not working and adjust as needed to achieve greater marketing ROI.

How does marketing automation help marketers?


of marketers use marketing automation to minimize manual tasks

Marketing automation software replaces manual and repetitive tasks and saves time. The software can take on the tactical work, allowing marketers to allocate more resources to strategy, content, and creative problem-solving.

Marketing automation makes campaigns more effective. Personalized content is delivered at the right time on the right channel. Doing that manually would be next to impossible, given the complexity involved in today’s omnichannel digital marketing campaigns.

Marketing automation makes it possible to push more effective campaigns into the market. However, it also eliminates daily tasks that feel like chores and become frustrating. These would include, but are certainly not limited to:

  • Planning campaigns in one system but looking at data in another
  • Dealing with customer histories that are only stored for a few months
  • Wasting time locating leads that should have been easier to find
  • Cleaning up duplicate records because of no integration into the CRM system
  • Working with IT to update and launch campaigns

Dealing with these tasks manually drains time, focus, and efficiency. Eliminating this drain is a key way marketing automation helps marketers.

Benefits of marketing automation

Marketing automation helps businesses of every size. It nurtures leads, helps acquire customers, cross-sells and upsells, and many other aspects of digital marketing and selling.

Marketing automation makes for more effective marketing, letting marketing teams do more with less. In fact, 63 percent of businesses expect that they’ll see benefits from marketing automation within six months of implementation. How can you maximize your benefits from your investment in marketing automation?

Here are some key benefits of marketing automation.


Higher conversion rates

When marketing campaigns are handled through marketing automation, clean customer data makes it easy to identify and target the right people. When the right offers are made to the right contacts, in real time, the chances are much higher of making a sale.


Less time—and resources—wasted on ineffective campaigns

Opportunity and revenue data pulled in from the CRM system provides complete visibility into what’s working and what’s not. This means marketers can stop planning based on intuition. They can use data to make informed decisions, especially about continuing to invest in campaigns that may not provide the required financial returns.


Keep everything in order

Marketing automation makes everything run smoother. It sorts out transactions, aligns activities, creates doable schedules, and aligns internal teams to achieve goals.


Increased employee productivity

With the right marketing automation solution, your employees no longer spend time on manual, repetitive tasks. They can focus on more strategic issues. Marketing automation makes their jobs easier, more productive, and more engaging.


Drive and optimize revenue growth

Because of all the capabilities in the best marketing automation software, it is easy to drive revenue and grow your bottom line.

  • Data silos between sales and marketing teams are removed.
  • The amount of money spent on marketing programs is optimized.
  • More marketing qualified leads are generated faster.
  • Key accounts are easily identified.
  • It is easy to enrich first-party customer data so it's easy to score and prioritize leads.
  • Campaign results are improved thanks to clean and complete customer data across geographies and instances.
  • Greater ability to guide prospects through the buying journey by delivering the right messages at the right time through the right channel.
  • Improved capability to measure every stage of the buying cycle.
  • Successful identification of the most effective campaigns and go-to-market strategies.
  • Analytics that allow you to predict the revenue outcomes of marketing and sales efforts.

Improved customer retention levels

Marketing is not finished once a customer is acquired. Customer retention is just as necessary as customer acquisition. Marketing automation supports loyalty programs. It provides upsell and cross-sell opportunities and other initiatives that build strong and lasting customer relationships.

Marketing automation best practices

Marketing automation best practices center around the planning and setup needed to align automation with strategic goals. Here are a few:

  • Think quality before quantity. Focus on quality in terms of the tools used, leads generated, and messages sent. Sometimes fewer tools are better as you work to connect the data between the silos that formed across the user journey.
  • Build personalized buyers’ journeys across channels. Respond to users quickly, and within the context of their past behaviors. This shows that you know them and understand them. Marketing automation workflows make it easy to respond quickly to buyer behaviors, while simultaneously carrying out lead scoring and sales enablement activities.
  • Create content that interests your audience. If one asset really works in a campaign, this can inform future content in terms of structure, offer, and timing. Marketing automation provides insight into the performance of each piece of content so you can identify what drives returns.

Marketing automation tools and their capabilities

Mack Trucks uses automation

  • Campaign orchestration tools for campaign creation, optimized deployment, and overall simplified campaign management
  • Segmentation and targeting tools that utilize CRM data—along with data from other sources—to build, filter, and segment audiences and update target lists
  • Lead scoring and modeling tools that work across multiple campaigns and lines of business
  • Design editors to build responsive emails, landing pages, and forms without the need for IT or agency support
  • Tools to manage process workflows and content
  • Support for dynamic content that can adapt and personalize the messaging based on a variety of factors
  • Subject line optimization toolset
  • Account-based marketing (ABM) program support
  • Integrations that make it possible to share contacts’ marketing activities and account/profile data with sales, in real time
  • Native CRM integrations
  • Analytics/dashboards that provide insight for campaigns, emails, account analysis, and revenue attribution

When is the best time to invest in a marketing automation solution?

There are several questions to ask when trying to determine if it’s the right time to invest in marketing automation.

  • Are you creating and publishing good content?
  • Is that content mapped to your buyer’s journey?
  • Have marketing and sales aligned on when leads are handed off? Do you know where customer conversations end with marketing and begin with sales?
  • Are you generating a steady flow of organic leads?
  • Can you track your prospects’ body language across every touchpoint and marketing channel?

But the most important question is, are you ready to start scaling your marketing efforts? If so, then it’s probably time to invest in a marketing automation solution.

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